April 18- 25, 2017
Keely was supposed to run the 2017 London Marathon but got injured
and wisely decided not to cripple herself just because we had prepaid
all the airfare, car rental, and hotel fees. AND it turns out you
can fly to Iceland for nearly nothing on your way to Europe, so
we decided to have a stopover there.
It all starts at the Portland Airport, where I glanced at this
sign and thought "What a great time to be alive - I am so glad
gays are accepted enough to advertise here at PDX." At home,
I read the sign more closely. Maybe next year?
$2 beer on Tuesdays! At the AIRPORT!?!?! Who ever heard of anything
for $2 at the airport? Sadly, this was the last cheap thing I'd
see on the entire trip. For example, Iceland Air does not offer
ANY free food - not even peanuts. Keely got a $14 "Tapas Selection"
that fit in the palm of her hand.
An hour to Seattle then 7 hours to Iceland, where, at 6:30am, we
rented a Kia Sportage - very nice car. So nice I thought I might
get one to replace my Forester, but then I saw they cost just as
much as a Forester, so . . . no. Car rentals are a little skeevy
in Iceland - they have lots of insurance options (Ash Insurance,
for example) and the insurance doesn't mean you just walk away -
it just limits your exposure.
7:00am and time to see our first sight: The Viking
World museum! Who ever heard of tourist attractions being open
at 7:00am? 1500kr (about $15) And they had a very nice breakfast
buffet for an additional $3 (best deal in the country.)
There was a lot of contact between Icelanders and Inuits (not much
of it friendly, if I read the sagas correctly.) I did like these
The boat is truly magnificent, and the Vikings had to be some tough
b@stards to survive being on an exposed deck in the North Atlantic.
That said: They had very steep scarfs on their planking, like 1:3
instead of the recommended 1:8.
I was also kinda bugged by the stem. "Traditionally"
it should have been carved from a tree that had grown on a hillside.
Mr Gunnar Marel Eggertsson did a fine job, but still . . .
The exhibits were well done and both informative and entertaining.
Another thing that bugged me was all the examples of "trade"
the Vikings had with natives from the New World when the sagas CLEARLY
state the very first Indians encountered were killed (for no reason
other than they were sleeping under some canoes) and the settlement
had to be abandoned after a short time due to hostilities (and internal
murder and intrigue.)
OK, enough of being Mr. Smartypants. It was time to go to the second
attraction: Blue Lagoon. Did I tell you it was cold? It was cold.
Blue Lagoon is a naturally
heated pool that is THE attraction for an Iceland visit - like seeing
Tower if you go to Las Vegas.
Silica mud - I've never seen white mud before.
After the Blue Lagoon it was on to our hotel, the Skuggi.
Very nice place. One interesting thing to note: They have a board
that goes across the threshold of the doorway to the room - maybe
blocking a draft? Anyway, you trip over it every damn time
you enter or exit your room.
Our first sight in town was, of course, the Penis Museum! Fitting
there was a penis-mobile parked in front, eh? They don't really
have hotrods in Iceland (that I could see) but they do like their
The Phallogical Museum was
less interesting that one might think. Rather than explanations
of why a penis might be shaped a particular way, it was pretty much
penises in jars with little cards that had the species it came from
in 6 different languages. That is a Blue Whale penis.
is the tallest structure in Iceland - a church with a 277ft tall
steeple, named after a guy who wrote hymns. That statue over on
the right is
Leif Eriksson,, the guy commanded to bring Christianity to the
island. The wind was blowing a good 40mph as we walked across the
plaza. A man stepped out of the church and his baseball cap was
ripped from his head and blown up the face of the steeple a good
60ft or so. It kept blowing up and down for a few cycles until it
I was starting to realize Iceland has a very stark, utilitarian,
culture. I have never seen a church with so little decoration -
and this place is HUGE!.
I have a friend who is in to pipe organs. Here ya go.
This was the only stained glass window in the entire Hallgrímskirkja,
Adoration of the Magi.
After going to the top of the church (and nearly being deafened
by the whistling of the wind) we went across the street to the Rok
restaurant. The waiter advised us the plates were small and
we'd want three each, but at $15-$20 a plate, we went for just two
each, and it was plenty. We got a salmon dish, reindeer, fish pie,
and lamb stew.
Most of the buildings in Reykjavik are utilitarian - square, few
windows, pointy rooflines to handle the snow. There is some fancy
street art, though.
This was the view from our room at the top of the Skuggi.
There was a balcony that went all the way around, but it was so
cold and windy we didn't spend more than a few minutes outside.
We closed out the evening with a walk on the main drag, down to
Harbor, where we tried the Icelandic delicacy: hot
dogs. At only $4.50 each, they were a steal of a deal, but .
. . I'd take a Costco dog any day.
The next morning, we took off to drive the Golden Circle to see
some sights. We stopped at an overlook and saw this sign. I guess
people who visit Iceland have a habit of stacking rocks.
This is the Thingvellir,
the seat of Icelandic Democracy back in the days of settlement.
In the early days, there was no king - or government, really - so
disputes were settled here, by votes (and sometimes, fighting.)
It is also the site of the Mid-Atlantic
Rift - where Europe pulls away from America.
Did I mention this was the first day of the Viking Summer? Those
tough b@stards only had two seasons, Summer and Winter. Why the
middle of April and not Spring Solstice? "I dunno, the Vikings
did it." was the best answer we got.
where the Law Speaker would recite (from memory) the laws of Iceland
(1/3 a year and he held the position for 3 years.)
Happy First Day of Summer from Oxararfoss!
Iceland has a LOT of waterfalls.
We went down to the
church at Thingvellir - it was supposedly built shortly after
the adoption of Christianity in the year 1000. I think this might
have been rebuilt a time or two since then.
I thought these were sheds for maintaining the park grounds - they
are actually the Icelandic Prime
Minister's Summer Residence.
Now there's a sign you don't see every day.
Dry suits. It's supposed to be a hell of an experience. Snorkeling
That's a dramatic view. Did I mention it was the First Day of Summer?
Our next stop was Geysir,
which, after visiting Yellowstone,
is pretty neat, but not all that impressive. The good news is that
it blows every 5 minutes or so.
They have a nice pool reminiscent of Morning
Glory in Yellowstone.
Hey, what's that over there, at the geyser. Is that someone in
a coyote suit? I'd better zoom in. Yup. Huh. Who brings a coyote
suit to Iceland?
They have some REALLY nice shops at the visitor center at Geysir.
We aren't really into fur, but that's a nice hat.
Speaking of fur, Keely makes a sad face on discovering we could
buy a seal skin. She called it a "baby seal skin."
She perked right up at the thought of some high heeled galoshes,
Gullfoss is simply stunning.
That is a dramatic backdrop.
Our final stop on the Golden Circle was Kerio
Crater Lake - quite a pretty place you can walk all the way
around. The ticket taker was the only grumpy person we met the entire
time we were in Iceland. He was one of the very few people we met
who was older than 60 as well.
We even walked down and touched the water. Cold - as you might
$35 for a horsemeat dinner. I could have chosen minki whale, but
I went with horse. This is a tourist dinner (you can tell by the
potato - 'taters are not part of Icelandic culture) and other tourist
dinners include whale and puffin. I wanted to try boiled sheep head,
but I never found it.
PS: Horse is DELICIOUS.
Here's something else we didn't try, a
Fish Spa. I'll just let my dead skin slough off like everyone
That's it for Iceland. We had an early flight out to continue our
trip to London.
Here are some things I learned:
- Iceland is EXPENSIVE. Deal with it.
- Buy your booze at the airport - there is only one package store
in Reykjavik and they close at 6pm.
- Driving is just like in the US. Get the insurances. Mind the
- I'd recommend going a little later in the year. The First Day
of Summer was pretty cold.
- Horse is DELICIOUS.